What type of tax and estate planning benefits do trusts offer?
Whether you already have an estate plan or are just now creating one, you may want to consider how helpful trusts can be in achieving your goals.
What is a trust? Simply put, it is a contract between you and a trustee, a person whom you appoint to manage and distribute your wealth as you instruct. Laws in virtually every jurisdiction require trustees to respect the terms of the trust. People at all income levels can benefit from some of the advantages trusts offer.
Probate is a time-consuming process in which a court affirms the validity of your will. It can leave assets in limbo while your heirs wait for estate planning lawyers and the courts to plod through legal procedures. Assets placed in trust, however, can avoid probate.
Just like a will, a trust lets you specify who receives your assets and when. It can be a "revocable trust," meaning that you can continue to control the assets and change your mind up until your death. Additionally, if there are aspects of your estate that you would like to keep private, a trust can help you to do so. A will, on the other hand, may become public as part of probate.
Instead of simply handing off wealth, trusts ensure that your legacy is handled in the manner you choose. You can choose a trustee to manage and distribute the wealth according to terms you set. You can provide safeguards to protect children who are not yet ready to handle wealth, and you can safeguard assets in the event of a divorce. Trusts can also shield assets from creditors.
"Irrevocable" trusts remove assets from your estate, potentially reducing or eliminating estate taxes. Some trusts, such as so-called Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs) allow you to hold onto principal while giving away only future appreciation of your assets, reducing estate taxes on those gains while preserving your peace of mind.
Varieties of Trusts
There are many types of trusts, such as life insurance trusts or charitable trusts, each established to accomplish a different set of goals and each offering different advantages. Some can be a win-win financially, offering tax benefits now and more wealth for your family later. The advantages of trusts should not be overlooked. An estate planning attorney or financial advisor can help you determine how a trust may fit into your financial plan and help you maximize your estate and your legacy.